Sights set on ASEAN economic revival

James Kon

Developing a recovery plan for ASEAN Tourism and negotiations for a possible ASEAN-Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA), as well as establishing the ASEAN Investment Facilitation Framework and the ASEAN Joint Declaration on Energy Transition and Energy Security are among the 10 Priority Economic Deliveries (PEDs) proposed by Brunei Darussalam for the ASEAN Economic Community.

All of the 10 PEDs under the three strategic thrusts of Recovery, Digitalisation and Sustainability were presented by Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah in his keynote address, during the ASEAN Business Advisory Council’s (ASEAN-BAC) 2021 Chairmanship Handover ceremony at the International Convention Centre yesterday.

Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew said, “As ASEAN member countries gradually resume economic activities, the region’s economy has started to pick up, showing signs of our ability to adapt to this new environment. However, the pace of improvement has remained moderate. The spread of the COVID-19 virus has not yet subsided and many countries continue to be affected. A full-fledged recovery, in my opinion, seems much further down the road and will require continued unfaltering cooperation.”

He added, “It is imperative that we keep our sights on our ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) integration agenda. It is an opportunity for us to work together, to look into the immediate long-term goals of our efforts to revive the ASEAN Economy, from ensuring that our workforce and businesses are equipped with the necessary skills and tools to adapt to any economic disruption, while shaping ASEAN into becoming more resilient, dynamic and to be ahead of the curve in championing new solutions towards sustainability; hence ensuring a better future for the generations to come.”

The minister continued, “It is therefore fitting, that in 2021, for ASEAN to intensify efforts toward building an ASEAN Community that is inclusive, sustainable, resilient and dynamic.

Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah speaks at the ceremony.

“The pandemic has changed the dynamics of the world. It has definitely fast-forwarded ASEAN’s shift towards digitalisation. It goes without saying that digitalisation is and will remain to be a key component of economic growth in the 21st Century,” he said.

“Thus, it is crucial for ASEAN to safeguard the cybersecurity of the region by enhancing our capabilities, while also being cognizant of new and emerging technologies. Additionally, ASEAN must continue to demonstrate its resolute support and commitment for multilateralism.

“Under the theme ‘We Care, We Prepare, We Prosper’, Brunei Darussalam’s main focus is on three priority areas, namely caring for the people and each other’s wellbeing, preparing for future opportunities and challenges, and prospering together in a unified region.

“In this regard, Brunei Darussalam has proposed 10 Priority Economic Deliveries (PEDs) for the ASEAN Economic Community which are divided into three strategic thrusts, namely Recovery in progressing together towards the region’s economic recovery; Digitalisation in leveraging on new technologies and digitalisation for a resilient ASEAN; and Sustainability, which is in pursuit of advancing an inclusive and sustainable economic growth in ASEAN.

“On Recovery, which covers four of our PEDs, first is to conduct a comprehensive assessment to streamline Non-Tariff Measures (NTMs) in ASEAN member states. This includes the development of an NTM toolkit which can be used to review NTMs in terms of compliance, enforcement and design.

“Second is to develop a recovery plan for ASEAN Tourism, which is one of the most impacted sectors. This plan will help provide comprehensive and coordinated solutions to enhance sustainability, resilience and social inclusiveness in ASEAN Tourism industry during and post pandemic.

“Third, we aim to announce the launching of the negotiations for the possible ASEAN-Canada FTA. The foundation of this FTA has been laid out.

“Fourth is to develop the ASEAN Investment Facilitation Framework, which would facilitate investments into the region and prepare for the post COVID-19 new norm. Furthermore, it would help integrate ASEAN into global value chains and contribute to ASEAN’s comprehensive recovery effort.

“Under the second strategic thrust, Digitalisation, we have two PEDs, which are the fifth and the sixth. For the fifth PED, is to develop a work place to implement the ASEAN agreement on Electronic Commerce. This work plan will guide member states on how to advance the effective implementation of the ASEAN Agreement on E-Commerce over the next five years, both at regional and national levels.

“The sixth PED is developing a regional action plan in the area of cyberspace, as recommended by the 2015 United Nations Group of Governmental Experts on Information Security (UNGGE) report. This will help the region in implementing the cyber norms and cooperation activities to develop the required capabilities.

“The third strategic thrust is sustainability, which consists of four PEDs, our seventh to 10th. The seventh PED is on developing an ASEAN framework which will support food, agriculture and forestry, small producers, cooperatives and MSMEs that have been severely impacted by the pandemic.

“The eighth PED focusses on energy, and that is to develop an ASEAN Joint Declaration on Energy Transition and Energy Security. This is expected to set out ways for ASEAN to cooperate in the pursuit of energy transitions and security.

“The next PED is looking at developing a framework for circular economy for the AEC. As a new concept, it is important to identify at this early stage the key areas of circular economy which are of relevance to the work of the AEC, drawing upon global and regional best practices,” he said.

“The last PED is on delivering key recommendations to advance ASEAN cooperation in mineral resource development in light of opportunities arising from global trends and shifts in the global minerals and metals markets. This PED will contribute to the sustainable community development goals of the AEC Blueprint 2025.

“There are three phases of a crisis: Emergency, Regression and Recovery. I believe, we are already entering the Recovery phase. Therefore, continuous sharing of real-time information, lessons learnt and experiences are an essential part of our pathway to recovery.

“It is important for us to keep in mind that economic recovery is evident by the resumption of business operations, recovery of employment levels as our people go back to work, and the easing of border movements, but true economic recovery is only fully realised when we demonstrate the ability to adapt to the new environment and possess a preparedness to combat similar crises and in pursuit of long-term sustainable growth,” the minister said.

“As the end users of ASEAN economic agreements and initiatives, we recognise that the private sector is a vital component of our economic integration agenda. Your expertise in relevant fields is invaluable in our post recovery efforts and the achievement of our deliverables, past, present and future.

“Digital technologies have played a crucial role during the pandemic, hence, the acceleration of digitalisation is key in our efforts to adapt in a post COVID-19 world,” the minister said.

“This is a chance for ASEAN countries to transition to a smart economy adapting to new ways of doing business, especially for our MSMEs to grow. It is therefore imperative for the public-private partnership be elevated to greater heights, to work hand-in-hand to ensure our short to long-term recovery goals are achieved; and thus for the region to strive, and be more sustainable and resilient in an inclusive manner.”